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Shopping for the holidays without ruining your credit

By By EVAN WHITE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - As the holiday shopping season rolls on, credit experts are warning consumers to be careful about the purchases they make.

With the economy still reeling from the recession and the ease of using credit cards, consumers can easily find themselves in a credit crisis.

"Adding to debt is a big problem," said Branch Manager of Consumer Credit Counselor Services of Central New York Pat Manley. "If you cant pay your debt down and you just add to it with Christmas spending, things are going to be worse after the end of the year."

CCCS data shows that debt problems throughout upstate cities - which include Binghamton, Utica, Syracuse, Albany and Watertown - are worsening.

*The average outstanding debt for CCCS clients is up to $87,662 this year, up from $68,149 from a year ago.
*Those on debt repayment programs with CCCS is up 25% from a year ago.
*The average age of those seeking debt help with consumer credit counseling services dropped a year from 46 to 45.

What can you do?

Manley suggests budgeting for everything.

"Make sure that you have a budget for Christmas that includes everything, and holiday parties and clothing that you may want to buy in addition to the gifts and postage and visiting," Manley said.

Manley also said not to carry too much debt on credit cards. There are often fees if you go above credit limits, and even if you don't, you're playing with fire.

"When you carry a lot of debt, especially if you go 50% above your credit limit, that's going to make your credit score lower than if you kept the debt level at a reasonable amount, say 20-30% of your credit limit," Manley said.

For more information on credit and credit counseling, take a look at the websites below:

www.credithelpny.org

Client Newsletter - October 2009

National Foundation for Credit Counseling

www.justice.gov

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